Alzheimer's Drugs Could Give Millions Hope

The approval of Alzheimer’s drug Lilly’s donanemab — to be sold under the brand name Kisunla — could give patients and their families new hope. 

Until recently, treatment was limited. About six million Americans suffer from Alzheimer’s.

“Some patients diagnosed with the disease would take a pill to relieve symptoms,” notes The Wall Street Journal. “More wound up at facilities that provided care for them once they couldn’t take care of themselves. With drugs such as Lilly’s newly approved Kisunla coming online, Alzheimer’s treatment promises to slow the cognitive decline, if only modestly, and to become more widely used.”



The drug received regulatory approval as a monthly injection after an 18-month trial showed “very meaningful results” in slowing cognitive and functional decline in patients with Alzheimer’s, the company said.

“In the trial, totaling more than 1,700 participants, Eli Lilly separated patients if they had an early or advanced form of the disease, and among the two groups, participants treated with donanemab compared with a placebo had a 39% lower risk of their disease worsening,” according to Forbes. “About 17% of patients were able to stop using donanemab after six months of treatment, while 47% stopped within a year and 69% stopped within 18 months, Lilly said, noting their cognitive decline continued to slow even after they stopped taking the drug.”

The cost for a 12-month treatment of Kisunla will be $32,000, a six-month treatment will be over $12,500 and an 18-month supply will total nearly $49,000, according to Lilly. That’s more expensive than Biogen and Eisai’s treatment lecanemab -- sold under the brand name Leqembi -- which was approved last year. 

Lecanemab -- which costs about $26,000 out of pocket for a year’s supply -- works similarly to donanemab by combating the buildup of amyloid proteins in the brain, which some experts associate with the disease, though the drug is taken every two weeks and treatment continues even after enough amyloid is cleared. 

“Kisunla has a significant difference that may appeal to patients, doctors and insurers: Lilly says patients can stop the drug after it clears the protein, amyloid, which clumps into plaques in the brains of people with Alzheimer’s,” Anne White, an executive vice president at Lilly, told The New York Times.

The drugs has shown in trials to modestly slow a decline in memory and thinking abilities.

During the trial, "decline was measured using the clinical dementia rating scale, which focuses on how well patients performed in six categories: memory, orientation, judgment and problem solving, community affairs, home and hobbies, and personal care,” according to NBC News. 

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